Day 15 – Sunday 19 January.
By Grant Chapman.
Some time mid-morning we noticed that the big purple spinnaker was torn and needed to be taken down and repaired. The damage was probably inflicted during the broach. While we effected repairs we hoisted the white spinnaker instead which as well as being heavier had narrower shoulders than the purple one so delivered less power.
Crossing the 130 meridian meant we were now also over the half-way mark of the Atlantic (not the whole race of course as we were a lot further than half-way from Cape Town), Rio being at 440 West leaving us 310 West to go and Cape Town being at 180 East we had already come 310.
There was general agreement on board that everyone was lussing for some fresh fish and while it provided the fishermen with good fishing action, fighting fish and not landing them didn’t make sense on a hungry boat. So Grant gathered all his remaining lures and set about re-jigging his rods and Peter’s trolling lines fixed to the cleats on the stern of the boat (which hadn’t received as much as a look at by any fish since day one, let alone a bite) and came up with some new configurations. We now had a nice big rapala lure on a very heavy line on a bungee off the stern that shouldn’t break no matter what size of fish went for it and smaller skirt lures were set on the lighter rod line and a mid-sized lure placed on the heavier rod line. It wasn’t 15 minutes before a very big fish almost managed to empty the line off the lighter rod on a very powerful run, having taken the lure intended for smaller fish, and then proceeded to break the lure off. Grrrr!
We weren’t sure if it was the frustration of the fish outwitting us, too much fresh air, our diet or confined living conditions for too long, but it was at this time that some of the crew members started to go bonkers. It was probably a combination of factors and the warning signs had admittedly been there for a while with Virgil speaking with a Russian accent for several days before settling on a more French-sounding one that now seemed to be permanently hard-wired into his enunciation. We would need to consult with his wife Lucretia on our return to find out what might have triggered the poor man becoming a frustrated Frenchman. If anyone had any doubts about our concerns we managed to secure some photographic evidence of his condition which deteriorated very quickly as he donned feather earrings fashioned from fishing lures, placed a number 4 hook in his nostrils and wore an imitation squid around his neck. At least he had the decency to wear nipple caps, resourcefully manufactured from hook keepers found in the fishing tackle box. Sensitive readers and warned that perhaps these images should have been censored. If having one crew member as mad as a hatter wasn’t enough, Cathleen and Lorraine soon followed suit, donning various items retrieved from the tackle boxes. We had come to consider Cathleen a sensible person but were now starting to have our doubts after she started speaking gibberish about being a GPS slave at the command of her master which she repeated in a machine language, giving confirmations about what her various instructions had been. We weren’t sure exactly who she considered her master to be. The next person to lose his marbles was Chris. It all started off with a rather good Borat impersonation the evening before but the self-appointed ambassador of Kazakhstan appeared to have now taken control of both Chris’ body and mind as he spoke like Borat, behaved like Borat and bristled with pride when he was addressed as “Borat” by the rest of us. What worried us the most though was mention of a luminescent green thong that would be worn on Copacabana beach. We weren’t sure if being a resourceful scout he had brought it with or if he was going to source one in the back streets of Rio de Janeiro. Either way the rest of the crew resolved that maybe going to the beach was a bad idea and that the rain forest would be a better bet. Virgil and Chris would need to be frisked before they went ashore to ensure that they weren’t going to wear any scouts branded clothing while on the loose in Rio, at least until we could have them certified sane again.
A lone Tropic bird with a red beak, its distinctive long white tail trailing in a looping motion behind it, followed us briefly. Considering we were 1000 miles from any land in any direction it is remarkable to see a bird like this accompanying us. Perhaps it had been blown out to sea in a hurricane like the hadedas and cattle egrets that have recently started to populate Florida in the USA. What was also remarkable was the sudden appearance of a small fly on the chart table. We had clearly transported a Cape Town maggot across the ocean.
During the graveyard shift at midnight in the pitch dark under heavily overcast skies Grant at the helm noticed that the boat suddenly seemed a lot slower and asked Lorraine to go and inspect the spinnaker as he suspected that something had happened to it. Sure enough, the spinnaker had totally collapsed and was soon alongside the boat dragging in the water. Summoning extra hands on deck we retrieved the spinnaker and identified that yet another brand new snap shackle had failed, the pin ring having snagged on something that had pulled it out of the shackle. Clearly snap shackles were a bad idea for retaining the spinnaker and we would only use conventional screw-in shackles from now on. Having lost the halyard up the mast for what seemed like the umpteenth time Ashwyn bravely volunteered to go up the mast this time to retrieve it, the sea being relatively calm with very little pitching and rolling of the boat. There was a good deal of squealing emanating from somewhere near the top of the mast and we weren’t sure whether it was out of delight, fear or certain parts of Ashwyn’s anatomy being squashed against the mast. Getting the halyard back down went off without a hitch and we re-hoisted the now repaired big purple spinnaker – somehow managing to get it inside out in the process so that the scouts fleur de lis was now facing backwards. As this didn’t compromise the boat’s performance and there wasn’t exactly anyone out here in the middle of the ocean to notice it we left it as it was.